LETTER: Misleading view of NHS workings

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In response to Mr Price’s slightly unfair and totally inaccurate letter (January 29), I have been an NHS doctor for 40 years and I do know what UKIP’s policies on health are.

Their policies on health and all other areas of public concern are laid out in the party’s manifesto and ‘Policies for People - what a UKIP government would do’. They are available from the local and national party and if he wants to ask I am sure they will be pleased to send him a copy.

But to clarify things. He is misleading himself and others to say that UKIP supports a private health system. It doesn’t. So the answer to his first question is that no private funding would be necessary - the NHS is funded through direct taxation and will continue to be so. So most of his ancillary questions are, of course, irrelevant.

Yes the care would be cradle to grave for all UK citizens but not for the thousands of foreign health tourists who currently cost the NHS tens of millions and are tolerated without being seriously deterred by many of our health trusts. Nor for migrants coming here for work, many with their families, until they have paid five years’ worth of National Insurance.

UKIP will end the scandal of hospital parking charges. The British tax payer paid for the car parks to be built, pays to maintain them and yet has to pay to park in them while visiting sick relatives. Why was this ever started in the first place? I can understand Costa coffee in reception areas but car parking charges, NO!

Other UKIP policies include making sure that foreign doctors are fit to practice here, something in even sharper focus this and last year with the publication of academic research showing that of the foreign doctors who come here each year, half were not fit to have qualified in this country and only 20 per cent were at the median level of a British graduate (a UCL paper on foreign medical graduates published in the BMJ last year).

In the five years to 2012, two-thirds of the doctors struck off by the GMC were foreign. There are 95,000 foreign trained doctors in the NHS, one-third of the total doctors at present. In a separate paper, this from Durham University, foreign trained doctors were found to be 60 per cent more likely to fail annual reviews of competence. UKIP is the only party so far as I know which is addressing this training and performance differential.The current GMC entrance exams are clearly not fit for purpose and are failing British patients.

To clarify another of Mr Prices’ points: long term community care is currently provided largely by Social Service departments, not the NHS, hence the frequent difficulties in discharging elderly patients with complex medical problems into the community from hospitals.

The long term plan to combine social and NHS care is about the only sensible thing Ed Milliband has said on the NHS before or since ‘weaponising’ it.

When he talks about the NHS and ‘all treatments’, not all treatments are covered by the NHS now.

Perhaps he is unaware but by no means all possible cancer treatments or other expensive effective treatments are funded by NICE, an organisation which frequently makes treatment recommendations based on cost effectiveness, not just efficacy - some of which ARE funded in the USA but not here.

Some that were funded here, are no longer covered and these include certain patients’ infertility treatment, most cosmetic surgery and so on.

So the NHS is not quite the paragon that Mr Price makes out, funding everything at any cost for everyone and neither could we afford it. In fact we currently have the fewest beds per head of population of virtually any advanced country and most hospitals work at or above 100 per cent capacity - something dangerously unsustainable.

The system isn’t working as well as Mr Price thinks: perhaps Mr Price is unaware of the CQC inspection and whistle blowing failings.

The NHS is far from the paragon it once was and it doesn’t seem to have put patients at its core for decades (this was the conclusion of the Frances report on one of the many NHS scandals).

I might also mention one seventh of the total spent on NHS childbirth from the £100 billion on the NHS goes on compensation claims, something that is levied at a rate calculated as if there were no NHS providing care at all.

In passing, and to answer another point mentioned, we are the biggest trading partner of Germany and second biggest of other European countries.

Does Mr Price think Mrs Merkel would want to lose one of its few solvent trading partners when we vote to leave the EU or give us ‘most favoured trading status’?

This, of course, goes for the other EU countries that trade with us now who would fall over themselves to continue trading with the only one successful economy outside a few scandinavian countries and Switzerland, elsewhere on the continent.

Perhaps this clarifies UKIP’s position on the NHS and why Mr Price’s fears about the future of the NHS under UKIP and the status of Britain as a trading nation outside Europe may be slightly back to front.

Dr C.J. Heath FRCP MRCGP

Salisbury Road, Horsham